One of the highlights of my years in Hoboken was the practice of some of my (usually older) neighbors to embrace their Christmas displays as year-round decor. It was not uncommon back then to see snowmen glow molds and plastic poinsettias stuck in planters as we headed out to see Fourth of July fireworks. The goodwill evidenced by the displays ran counter to my ordinary experiences there, which included threats to run me over for parking spot disputes and f-bombs dropping right. Memories of these jolly souls sprang to mind this week when I noted that it is well past Epiphany and at least two neighbors still have lights up and one neighbor still hasn’t managed to disentangle their red bulbs from their espaliered vines. Perhaps they can leave them up for Valentine‘s Day.
For my part, I am leaving the Christmas season packed up where it should be. I am fully embracing the return to Ordinary Time (both liturgical and actual), and not just because out Winter Break was more than two weeks long. I say we embrace the post-holiday return to the ordinary as the French do with La Rentrée. In France, La Rentrée comes at the end of August and signals the beginning of school, the return to work from holiday, and a return to a regular schedule – ordinary time. In France, this is a much bigger deal than our “Back to School” season. As one blogger puts it: “La rentrée literally means the return. It’s a time of optimism and renewal, new stock in the shops, new TV programmes, new books being released.”
We have a decent stretch of Ordinary Time to enjoy before the somber sacrifices of the Lenten season begin, and I plan to enjoy it fully. It is my own mini-La Rentrée; a time to return to the normal routine but also to bring something new to it. This year Ash Wednesday is sensibly waiting until March 6 and will not be ruining Valentine’s, as it did last year. There will be no Easter on April Fool’s Day. Our household has already demolished two King cakes as proof of our commitment. I know my brother is also heaving a sigh of relief, as his March 3 birthday will not have to be celebrated with fasting or fish (Enjoy it, brother. You won’t have a break again until 2025.You’re welcome.)
Instead of viewing Ordinary Time as a hum-drum prelude to the next holiday season, let’s take a page from the French and see this period as a season of optimism and opportunity. We should take advantage of the spiritual breathing room we have before Lent. This is the perfect time to find a new spiritual practice to add to your routine or recommit to an existing one that may have fallen off during the holidays. For example, I feel so lucky to have started a new faith study with friends to mark the new year and get back to things that are really important. It doesn’t hurt that the book is a cheery shade of springtime pink. What a great way to begin Ordinary Time. So grab some new pencils, a new journal, a new book, or some new prayers. Think about where this year can take you. I hope that you are able to embrace the extraordinary possibilities of the la rentrée to Ordinary Time.
Bonne (January) rentrée!